Daily Editorial Analysis for 31th October 2022

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Forging a theatre

GS PAPER 3 : Defence

Important for

Prelims: Theatre Command , Chief of Defence Staff

Mains: How theaterisation will play an important role to strengthen our armed forces ?


INDIA’S NEWLY APPOINTED Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), even as he tackles thorny issues related to the management of two live borders,force-modernisation,competing budgetary claims and new personnel policies,will be under pressure to expedite the creation of new joint command structures.

What is theaterisation?

It is a concept that seeks to integrate the capabilities of the three services — army, air force and navy — and optimally utilize their resources for wars and operations. Specific theatre commands – or units – will be placed under the Theatre Commander. Such commands are expected to come under the operational control of an officer from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned.

Different Perspective on Theaterisation

In favor of Integration Against Integration
  • The integrated theatre commander will not be answerable to individual Services, and will be free to train, equip and exercise his command to make it a cohesive fighting force capable of achieving designated goals.
  • There has been no occasion, during actual warfare, when the three services have not operated with commendable cooperation.
  • Faraway lands war and medium to high intensity wars are a distant possibility.
  • The logistic resources required to support its operations will also be placed at the disposal of the theatre commander so that it does not have to look for anything when operations are ongoing.
  • With increased communication network , interaction between three organization is easy, they can come on board , can planning without much consideration of spatial distance, so there is no need for new organisation.
  • This is in contrast to the model of service-specific commands which India currently has, wherein the Army, Air Force and Navy all have their own commands all over the country. In case of war, each Service Chief is expected to control the operations of his Service through individual commands, while they operate jointly.
  • Domain knowledge of the integrated force commander is likely to be limited in respect of the other two Services components under his command, thereby limiting his ability to employ them in the most suitable manner and at the appropriate time

Opinion of Three Services on This Proposal

ARMY – In favor: It is time to move away from a service specific approach to operations towards a system which avoids duplication, ensures optimum utilization of available resources.

AIR FORCE – strongly opposed

  • It doesn’t have enough resources — fighter squadrons, mid-air refuellers and AWACS — to allocate them dedicatedly to different theatre commanders.
  • It believes that India is not geographically large enough to be divided into different theatres, as resources from one theatre can easily be moved to another theatre

NAVY-more nuanced, it too is not in favour of implementing the proposal currently

  • The current model of control by the Navy Headquarters is ideally suited for its strategic role.
  • There are also underlying fears about the smaller Services losing their autonomy and importance.

Delay in Appointment of CDS

The nine-month delay in the appointment of the second CDS may turn out to be a blessing in disguise if it leads to introspection by our military and political leadership. Such introspection must take place against the background of the 30-month-old military confrontation with China and the on-going conflict in Ukraine.

Apart from this, there are some other imperatives that cannot be wished away.

  • First, any conflict with China will demand forces/resources from 4-6 of India’s 14 single service, and two tri-service commands (none of them co-located), as well the space and cyber agencies and the Special Forces division.
  • Facing them will be the PLA’s combined-arms forces under the unitary commander of its Western Theatre Command.
  • One can imagine the command/control and logistic nightmare such a situation could create for India’s operational commanders and the fiascos that could ensue.
  • The obvious imperative is to integrate these 14 commands into 4-5 geographic or threat-based theaters and place necessary forces under a single commander charged with conduct of operations.
  • Second, the service chiefs have to reconcile themselves to the reality that once theatre commanders assume the “warfighter” role, they will be divested of operational responsibilities, and assume the “raise-train sustain” functions, involving recruitment and training of personnel as well as acquisition of combat wherewithal.
  • The theater commanders will have service “component commanders” of two/three-star rank to render service-specific advice.
  • Third, while the component commanders may retain a linkage with their chiefs, the question of who will provide operational guidance to the theatre commanders still remains open.
  • The last issue relates to air power, which has been the cause of fierce controversies over resources, roles and missions.
  • Beneath the facade of inter-service bonhomie hides this germ of discord, which no one wants to talk about.
  • The idea that strategic bombing alone was the path to victory was propagated by air-power proponents, Billy Mitchell in America and Guilio Douhet in Italy.
  • Command of the air, according to them, meant quick, cheap and decisive victory, making surface forces redundant.

About CDS

  • He will be the single-point military adviser to the government as suggested by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999.
  • He will be a Four-star General.
  • CDS acts as the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which will also have three service chiefs as members.
  • His core function will be to foster greater operational synergy between the three service branches of the Indian military and keep inter-service frictions to a minimum.

Role of Chief of Defence Staff:

  • Principal Military Adviser: CDS will act as the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister on tri-services matters. He will also be the military adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority (chaired by the Prime Minister), which handles India’s nuclear arsenal.
  • Department of Military Affairs’ Head: The Department of Military Affairs will also be headed by the CDS. The mandate of the Department of Military Affairs will include the following areas:
    • Promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services.
    • Facilitation of restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilization of resources.
    • Promoting use of indigenous equipment by the Services.
  • Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee: The CDS will be the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC). As a permanent chair, CDS will:
    • Administer all tri-service organizations and commands.
    • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
    • Implement the five year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP) and the two year roll on Annual Acquisition Plans.
    • Coordinate operation, logistics, transport, training, support services communications, etc. of the three Services

Committees Recommendations

How is Joint Command different from Integrated Command?

  • Jointness means that while the 3 Services progress and develop in their respective spheres with their independent identity, they function together and so coordinate their operations in war.
  • Integrated commands, on the other hand, seek to merge individual service identities to achieve a composite and cohesive whole.
  • It implies enmeshing the three Services together at different levels and placing them under one commander for the execution of operational plans.


India operates the 4th largest military in the World, and with each service acting independent of each other, the formation of theatre commands is indeed a need of the hour. But, the successful launch of the Theatre Commands should not be rushed. Issues and concerns of all the stakeholders must be resolved first.

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